The need for improved infrastructure and better public transport in Leighton Buzzard will be discussed with the national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) when he visits small businesses in the area next Tuesday (September 18).
Mike Cherry will meet local businesses, just as FSB announces the launch of a new retail group to help keep the town centre thriving in the face of threats from large retail developments nearby.
Led by local resident and salon owner Gennaro Borelli, an active FSB member, the group was put together to ensure that Leighton Buzzard’s small business community benefit from the planned growth of the town.
The group is made up of local FSB members who recognise the importance of town centre businesses to the vibrancy of the town. They will meet up regularly to decide how best to promote the high street to both established and new residents of Leighton Buzzard and the surrounding area.
This month FSB set out a plan to help small high street businesses, urging policymakers to target areas like business rates, parking and improving local roads and bank branch closures.
With parking and infrastructure remaining a huge issue for high streets, FSB is calling on local authorities across England to provide more free parking to encourage shoppers back to the high street all year round, making sure any proposed increases to charges are assessed for their impact on town centres.
High parking charges and a lack of spaces often put off shoppers from visiting town centres, instead favouring out of town centres with free parking.
FSB is also asking for increased funding for local road maintenance, fairer distribution of Government cash on major road network projects and improved local transport to make sure routes into town centres are in a good state of repair for both businesses and consumers.
Mr Cherry, who is due to visit businesses in Tebworth, Eggington and Leighton Buzzard town centre, said: “I am very much looking forward to my visit to Leighton Buzzard. This is a town with lots of planned growth and therefore opportunity for small, independent businesses to thrive with right infrastructure and support.
“We know that small business owners are resilient, but it’s important that decision makers do come together to look at real solutions to issues impacting town centres, so that our high streets are not only able to survive, but to thrive. Investing in the road network, fixing potholes quickly and providing more town centre free parking would make a real difference to small firms in places like Leighton Buzzard.
“It’s towns like this that, with the right intervention, will be able to achieve growth, jobs and prosperity without losing their market town feel and status.”
Mr Borelli said: “We are delighted that FSB is supporting our local campaign to help promote the unique offer that independent business bring to the town. It is marvellous that our national chairman Mike Cherry is coming to this part of Bedfordshire to see the great work that we are doing here.”